Sensory marketing and artistic strategy: analysis of the 'Tequila Sunrise' bottle from the hip hop group Cypress Hill.
1/ When marketing and artistic strategies intersect to create an iconic song.
"Allways be aware of what's around you
They wanna down you, and fuckin' clown you
? Keep your shit in order the money won't stop ?
Pretty soon you will be on top"
Tequila Sunrise' is a track from Los Angeles-based hip hop band Cypress Hill and was released as a single in 1998 on Ruffhouse and Columbia Records. On the cover of the record, a bottle of tequila appears in close-up. To my knowledge, this bottle was unfortunately never released at the time.
But what would it have looked like if it had really been created in 1998 under Mexican and US legislation?
Its design is based on the graphic codes Cypress Hill has used since the single 'Insane In The Brain' (1992) and the albums 'Black Sunday' (1993) and 'Temple Of The Boom' (1995). They are mainly Arabian and Hindu or Persian typographies with visuals evoking the Mexican Day of the Dead as well as references to marijuana. Black and green are dominant.
Visual artists Jay Papke and Dante Ariola of the Pawn Shop Press agency initiated the graphic charter and then created the iconic designs for Cypress Hill during the group's golden age between 1991 and 1995. Thanks to their creativity, the group benefits from a visual identity without equivalent in the world of hip-hop.
Mitch Greenblat then took up the concept again with success for the new album 'IV' (1998) which featured 'Tequila Sunrise'. It was on this occasion that the visual of the bottle was created, partly recycling the well-known 'Insane In The Brain' bottle. Fans can't go wrong, it's Cypress Hill!
Then the band called upon a collective of friends, The Soul Assassins Collective to make the covers of the following albums but alas with less finesse. To want to squeeze the lemon too much...
2/ Analysis of the bottle design
What does the cover of 'Tequila Sunrise' show us?
We see a flask type glass bottle in a smoky green colour. The label with its dark black background covers almost the entire surface of the glass. The typography and the skull are white and stand out with finesse. Obviously, the bottle is lying flat on its back for the photo shot because we notice air bubbles suspended against the label on the front side.
From the top, we find the mention 'Soul Assassins' in reference to the collective of singers and designers of which Cypress Hill is a member.
The following entries indicate 'Cypress Hill' then 'Tequila Sunrise'. Here we have the choice between three interpretations:
- Or it is a reference to the cocktail of the same name which, as a reminder, includes tequila (3 parts), orange juice (6 parts) and grenadine syrup (1 part). Which is not right because, as its name indicates, its colour ranges from yellow to flamboyant red. But the alcohol in the bottle is not coloured.
- Or is he referring to the eponymous film (cast: Mel Ginson, Kurt Russell and Michelle Pfeiffer) released in 1988 with a love story set against the backdrop of competition between a policeman and a former drug dealer? This is definitely not the kind of Cypress Hill...
- Better listen to the lyrics to understand the meaning of the title: they're a group of traffickers from Tijuana to the US border who play their hearts out and decide to develop their business on the other side. They make a pact with each other over a tequila in the morning thinking about the previous day's hit before crossing the border again to finish the business.
"Tequila spice, hot nice
Feeling right, sipping on Jose Cuervo.
Down in Tiajuana, Mexico
Thinking of the big score the night before."
Hence the reference to the sun rise in the title.
- Another interpretation is also proposed by the song which this time refers to the bloodshot eyes by analogy with the sun and the colour red:
"Tequila Sunrise, bloodshot eyes"
In any case, the name 'tequila' cannot be associated with the term 'sunrise' on the same line if it turns out that it is only tequila. The A TTB, which validates the information on the labels before any marketing on the US territory, requires that they be separated in order to avoid confusion.
120 proof / 60%: this is definitely not a sunrise tequila cocktail which would be more like 15% alcohol but a pure tequila. Note that the Mexican spirit is normally between 38% and 55% and that to reach a maximum of 55% a double distillation is necessary.
Product Of Los Angeles: this mention is not authorized by the Mexican legislation which imposes the production on its territory.
750ml: Obviously, this flask does not hold 750ml, contrary to what the label says. This is because the label covers the entire surface of the glass and because the flasks are generally smaller in size (about 200 to 375ml).
3/ An artistic and marketing approach that stops halfway.
In the end, if this bottle existed, it would be different from the one we see on the cover of the record because of US and Mexican legislation. But there's no doubt that from a marketing point of view, the effect would have been devastating when you consider the attachment of hip hop fans to Cypress Hill and its graphic identity. It's a shame that Columbia Records didn't consider using sensorial marketing by using the visuals of the record to create a limited edition of this bottle.
As for the name 'Tequila Sunrise', it can be confusing because it doesn't refer at all to the cocktail of the same name but to the sun that rises in the early morning of a crucial day for the business of the protagonists of the song.
"Tequila Sunrise, bloodshot eyes
Realize we're all born to die
So get the money nigga!
Tequila Sunrise, bloodshot eyes...
Realize we're all born to die
So get the money nigga!"
And the members of Cypress Hill to remind during the interviews that their compositions are always drawn from their experiences...
4/ Bonus :
It's never too late to value one's artistic heritage as well as the ageing of a good wine.
For the 20th anniversary of the song (2018), Puma, Killa Villa & Cypress Hill collaborate to create a limited edition football t-shirt with the lyrics of the song.
Notice the presence of the gusano on the logo, which is the little worm found at the bottom of the mezcal bottles, the little brother of tequila.
In addition, Cypress Hill refers to mezcal twice in the text:
"Word up, Tequila style
Eat the worm motherfucker
Tequila spice, hot nice"
Then further on:
"You got that? ? Give me a cup, I took a swig ?
The bitter taste of the 'mezcal', free worm shit."
To understand the relationship between tequila and mezcal, read the article by Mexican spirits specialist Martha Murguia of Bleu Agave here :